• Last modified 397 days ago (May 25, 2023)


Florence native expresses her faith in paintings

Staff writer

Florence native Deborah Hanes-Nelson, now living in Centralia but frequently seen in her hometown, is an artist with a watercolor gallery who spent 35 years in ministry.

She was born in the office of Florence physician John Slifer and started kindergarten and graduated from high school at Florence.

Her father’s career as a railroad worker meant she and her family lived in a number of other Kansas towns as she grew up, but the family gravitated back to Florence.

“Mine was the last graduating class at Florence High School,” Hanes-Nelson said. “My brothers, Phil Smith-Hanes and Neal Hanes, graduated from Marion High School.”

Her mother, Betty Hanes, still lives in Florence, and Hanes-Nelson visits her twice a week.

Brother Neal Hanes is an independent carpenter there.

She also returns to Florence for annual alumni association meetings.

A self-taught artist, Hanes-Nelson teaches three days a week.

“Everything you do for somebody else comes back and help you in some way,” she said.

Although pulpit ministry and art seem different at first, Hanes-Nelson’s work blends the two. Each painting comes with a scripture.

For example, a watercolor of a horse drinking at the side of a river, “Salt River Horse,” bears the verse, “Ahab had said to Obadiah, ‘Go through the land to all the springs and valleys. Maybe we can find some grass to keep the horses and mules alive so we will not have to kill any of our animals.” (I Kings 18:5.)

“Fascination,” a portrait of a young girl examining a string of Christmas lights, bears the verse, “The man said to me, ‘Son of man, look carefully and listen closely and pay attention to everything I am going to show you, for that is why you have been brought here. Tell the people of Israel everything you see.” (Ezekiel 40:4.)

“When you’re out somewhere and you don’t know anybody, you can pick up a pad of paper and draw,” she said. “I’ve always enjoyed drawing and painting.”

She attended Washburn University for a bachelor’s in social work and Saint Paul School of Theology in Kansas City, Missouri, before beginning her career in ministry with the United Methodist church.

Her art can be seen and ordered on her website,

Last modified May 25, 2023